Weiner’s World


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Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in July 2016 at www.weiner-intl.com  and is being reprinted here with special permission from the author.

This month's column has a higher percentage of IC coverage than normal for several reasons. The end of Moore's Law regarding transistor scaling will be dead by 2021 as will be replaced by 3D integration according to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). Total silicon wafer area shipments reached a new record this past quarter. 2,706 million square inches were shipped during the most recent quarter, according to The Silicon Manufacturers Group an independent special interest group within SEMI. The M&A activity in this industry segment continues unabated.

Noted futurist Alvin Tofler, author of Future Shock, a primer on change that I often have quoted, passed this month at 87. He wrote with great insight about modern technologies, including the digital revolution and the communication revolution, and their effects on cultures worldwide. His works and the lessons he taught are timeless.

July 2016 Virginia Congresswoman Barbara Comstock met with executives and employees of IPC-member company TTM Technologies at their manufacturing facility in Sterling, Virginia. Coordinated by IPC, this visit was part of an ongoing IPC effort to help policymakers learn first-hand about legislative and regulatory issues that impact the industry.

Suzhou Dongshan Precision Manufacturing Co., Ltd. completed its $600+ million acquisition of MFLEX (Multi-Fineline Electronix Inc.) this month. MFLEX, now as a wholly owned subsidiary of DSBJ, had its stock delisted from the NASDAQ. Suzhou Dongshan Precision Manufacturing now has 16,000+ employees, and over 2 million square feet of manufacturing space, along with a number of American OEMs as customers.

How big will the fallout from the Pokémon Go phenomenon be?

Will Nintendo's smash hit force other game manufacturers to transition from game consoles to mobile app platforms to compete and remain profitable? Industry technologist and consultant Dominque Numakura thinks so. He states, "Electronic products related to the video game industry are a significant contribution to the bottom line for many affiliated with the electronics industry. This change will be disappointing for EMS companies, component suppliers. and circuit board manufactures. Engineers are constantly creating ways to deliver products and information to the consumer even faster and cheaper. Sometimes, unfortunately, advances in technology eliminate many jobs from the electronics industry."

SEMI and the Fab Owners Association (FOA), an international group of semiconductor and MEMS fab owners and suppliers, announced that the FOA has become a SEMI Strategic Association Partner. The FOA is an international nonprofit trade association of semiconductor and MEMS fab owners and industry suppliers, who meet regularly to discuss and act on common manufacturing issues, combining strengths and resources to increase semiconductor manufacturing efficiencies to become more competitive. As a SEMI Strategic Association Partner within SEMI, the FOA will retain its own governance and autonomy with regard to charter and activities. A SEMI representative will serve as executive director of the FOA. The new relationship is expected to reduce the FOA’s association management costs.

“As the industry has changed, SEMI has adapted,” said Denny McGuirk, president and CEO of SEMI. "Our members requested SEMI provide more platforms and opportunities for pre-competitive collaboration with industry segments throughout the electronics manufacturing supply chain. We developed the Strategic Association Partnership as a hub and spoke linkage to other association communities to provide a collaboration and connection and access to SEMI's range of member services—while enabling that linked community to conduct their business autonomously for the specific interests of their members."

Although the meetings and workshops were busy, SEMICON's exhibits seemed a bit "old hat" and lacking the excitement of past shows. It did not have the luster of a highly charged and energetic SEMICON China held just a few months earlier. To be sure, there seemed to be substantial business conducted in the South hall and the solar event in the West hall seemed to have a stream of visitors. But still, it seemed a bit lethargic. Perhaps this is as it should be when one considers two things: where the major growth is expected during the next few years and the continued consolidation of participants.

We DID find a fascinating new product at SEMICON. TeraView Ltd. from the UK introduced a new non-destructive method of locating defects in complex circuit packages by terahertz imaging techniques. The system could locate faults (e.g., with solder ball connections) within 5μm. TeraView was spun-out of Toshiba Research Europe in April, 2001 by its co-founders, Sir Michael Pepper (CSO) and Dr. Don Arnone (CEO), to exploit the intellectual property and expertise developed in sourcing and detecting terahertz (THz=1012Hz) radiation, using innovative technologies.

China is targeting a top-10 ranking in automation for its industries by 2020 by putting more robots in its factories according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). This is partly a response to labor shortages and fast-rising wages. The government which has been mandating 18–20% increases for years has now put a two-year wage freeze into effect. To reach automation goal, China is targeting sales of 100,000 domestically produced industrial robots a year by 2020, up 49% compared to 2015. The Chinese market is still dominated by foreign robot makers including ABB, Kuka, and Yaskawa. Chinese companies still primarily produce low- to mid-range industrial robots. However, they intend to catch up quickly as is evidenced by this month's purchase of Germany’s Kuka by Chinese home appliance maker Midea in a successful $5 billion takeover bid for 86% of the company's shares. (Source: Reuters)

I had just finished reading the above news from Reuters on my flight to SEMICON when the passenger next to me on the flight decided to engage me in conversation. He turned out to be on his way to China via SFO. He was to be at his company’s Shanghai office for several weeks. He was employed by a Northeast wireless speaker company. His mission was to help his Chinese contract manufacturer automate. They had already begun to install five axis robots to pick, place and fasten a variety of large and small parts for the speaker assemblies. He stated that expected labor savings would be 20–30%, but that more importantly, improvements in yield and in quality had already been achieved. Productivity gains were also expected by the completion of the installation. I asked if the company were to start to build or contract with a new and automated facility if it would it choose China, another country, or the U.S. He said, taxes aside, that would still be a tough call.

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